Citroen has effectively utilized its C-Cube platform in India, introducing models like the C3 hatchback and the eC3 EV. Now, the Citroen C3 AirCross joins the lineup, aiming to compete with segment leaders such as the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. Will this new C3 AirCross make an impact on the sales of its competitors? To find out, we took the car for a test drive around Chennai, analyzing its fuel economy and overall performance. For a comprehensive review, you can watch the video.
Why Citroen C3 AirCross might win
Citroen is making its entry into a well-established segment, albeit a bit later. However, with the advantage of a new platform, they have the flexibility to experiment. One such example is the Citroen C3 AirCross, which offers a 5+2 seating configuration. This means you can choose between a 5-seater version or a 5+2-seater variant, which is quite unique as no other manufacturer provides this option.
Moreover, the Citroen C3 AirCross stands out further by offering removable last-row seats. This clever feature allows you to create more space in the boot by simply taking out the last row of seats when not needed, resulting in an impressive boot space of 511 litres, leading the segment in terms of storage capacity.
Apart from its unique seat configuration, the new C3 AirCross also boasts one of the finest engines in its segment. Powered by the 1.2-litre PureTech turbocharged engine, driving this car is an absolute delight. Unlike the hatchback variant where it’s optional, this engine comes as standard across all variants of the AirCross. With a maximum power output of 110 PS and a peak torque of 190 Nm, the engine delivers a smooth and instantaneous response, making the driving experience truly enjoyable.
The engine provides ample low-end torque, allowing the car to crawl forward effortlessly even without pressing the accelerator, just by modulating the clutch pedal. This feature proves to be a blessing in heavy traffic situations and brings back the nostalgia of driving torque-heavy and affordable diesel engines.
During our 200 km drive, we were impressed by the seamless synergy between the engine and the six-speed manual transmission. The gear ratios are well-optimized, and the third gear, in particular, stood out as it can be used at low speeds of 20 km/h and can comfortably handle speeds above 110 km/h. In heavy traffic, you can simply keep the car in third gear, easing your driving experience. Citroen has successfully addressed the challenges of heavy traffic situations while ensuring the car performs well during quick overtakes on highways and maintains stability at high cruising speeds.
Citroen continues to impress with its air carpet feature in the new C3 AirCross, and it performs exceptionally well. Despite the 17-inch alloys, the comfort level remains top-notch. During the presentation, Citroen officials had instructed us not to slow down for any potholes or speed breakers, and we followed their advice. We were amazed by how effectively the suspension absorbed all road irregularities, providing a smooth and seamless ride. Undoubtedly, it offers the best ride quality in the segment, regardless of whether you are seated in the front or rear of the car. The comfort level remains consistent throughout.
Even on highways, the suspension works flawlessly. There is minimal body roll, even when taking high-speed corners or changing lanes. With the longest wheelbase in its segment, the C3 AirCross also offers excellent straight-line stability, further enhancing the driving experience.
We drove the car on a curated off-roading track. To mimic the road conditions in metro cities like Gurugram and Mumbai, we drove the car through chicken holes and many other obstacles. The C3 AirCross could have tackled slightly more difficult obstacles, we really loved how comfortable the car was all through the journey.
We conducted a tank-full to tank-full test of the Citroen C3 AirCross on the busy roads of Chennai with four people on board. Despite the climate control system constantly running due to the hot weather, we achieved a fuel efficiency of 15.32 km/l. This is quite decent considering the heavy traffic and the extra work the climate control had to do. We maintained a constant speed of around 82 km/h according to the car’s speedometer during the test.
There isn’t much of a difference between the 5-seater and 5+2-seater versions of the Citroen C3 AirCross. The 5+2 seater variant comes with two removable seats that can accommodate adults for short distances, and if they can adjust to the cramped space, even for longer journeys. On the other hand, the 5-seater variant offers 50mm more legroom in the rear seats but does not have the 60:40 split seats and the roof-mounted air circulator.
Speaking of the roof-mounted air circulator, it is a sizable and noisy device that can make conversation difficult. Additionally, it is in the line of sight of the rear passengers, which might make some passengers feel claustrophobic during long trips. Despite this, we appreciate how Citroen has managed the overall space in the C3 AirCross.
Things you may miss on the Citroen C3 AirCross
In simple terms, the Citroen C3 AirCross lacks some essential features that are commonly found in the mid-size SUV segment. Notably, it does not come with an automatic climate control system and cruise control, even in its top-end variants.
Additionally, the C3 AirCross currently does not offer an automatic transmission, but Citroen has mentioned that it will soon be updated to include an automatic torque converter. While the fit and finish of the car are commendable, it doesn’t quite give off a premium feel.
Potential buyers might also find the absence of features like a panoramic sunroof or any sunroof, auto-dimming IRVM (Inside Rear-View Mirror), 360-degree camera, ventilated seats, electronically adjustable driver’s seat, cooled glove box, and a proper armrest for front passengers, among others, a bit disappointing.
Should you buy it then?
The Citroen C3 Aircross may be lacking in some features, but it does have a few strong and unique selling points. Citroen is taking a different approach in the Indian market, particularly in this segment where it entered late. If they manage to price the Citroen C3 Aircross competitively, it has the potential to attract customers away from sub-4m SUVs, rather than directly competing with models like the Creta.
Ultimately, the price will be the determining factor here. Indian consumers prioritize space over features, and if Citroen gets the pricing right, people will gladly overlook the absence of certain features in favor of a reasonable price tag.